Christie, Booker Head to White House to Press Gateway Funding

Left to right, state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.
Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Cory Booker. Salvador Rizzo for Observer

Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Cory Booker will be meeting with President Trump in the White House on Thursday to press for federal funding of the Gateway project, a colossal project that would double train capacity between New Jersey and New York City but that currently lacks a secure funding source.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are also expected to attend the 3:30 p.m. meeting, according to a congressional aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The White House confirmed Trump’s attendance. A Christie spokesman confirmed the governor will be there.

The Gateway project, which includes building a new tunnel under the Hudson River, replacing the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River, adding tracks at Newark Penn Station and relocating parts of New York Penn Station to a new building, is seen as one of the most important infrastructure projects in the country. But a faction of rural, Southern and fiscally conservative lawmakers from other parts of the country in the Republican-controlled House have not been eager to fund the project.

The meeting comes a day after New Jersey and New York lawmakers in the House successfully blocked an effort to eliminate $900 million to start the infrastructure project. The funds were added by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, but a Republican from North Carolina tried to remove them with an amendment that went down in defeat in a late-night vote. Conservatives who tried to remove the funding said it violated a 2010 ban on earmarks, according to the Record.

Frelinghuysen used his powerful perch to include $900 million for the project in a transportation spending plan he unveiled in July. The U.S. Department of Transportation appropriations bill for fiscal 2018 would include $500 million in “rail state of good repair grants” and $400 million for building a new tunnel to connect New Jersey to New York City and replacing the Portal North Bridge over the Hackensack River, Frelinghuysen’s office said in a news release in July.

In addition, a significant portion of $328 million in funding for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor would be used to support the Gateway project. The Gateway program is considered crucial to improving the capacity of the tunnels for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak under the Hudson River.

Cuomo said Wednesday that the federal government “squandered months if not years” by delaying funding for the project, which he called “vital and critical” to the northeast region. The federal government and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would split the cost of the estimated $20 billion project, he said.

“Gateway is two train tunnels that come from New Jersey to New York under the Hudson River that carry the Amtrak trains and serve the entire northeast. Those tunnels go down, there is no Amtrak service to the entire northeast United States,” Cuomo said. “So I have nothing to sell. Everyone has agreed that this is a necessity. It’s been talked about for years and years. It’s a national priority…This is an act of negligence by the federal government that they should be this delayed.”

Christie, Booker Head to White House to Press Gateway Funding